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Top Trademark TrendsSM of 2014

By Erik M. Pelton & Associates® – The Nontraditional Trademark Lawyers®

Once again, trademarks and pop culture collided frequently in 2014. For example, more than 50 “JOHNNY ____” applications were filed this year as quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns including JOHNNY MAN’Z ALE, JOHNNY CLEVELAND, JOHNNY HOCKEY, JOHNNY PIGSKIN, and JOHNNY BENCHWARMER. Another football trademark story made big news as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) ruled in a case to cancel the Redskins trademark registrations.  Other big news stories, like the ebola outbreak, also were reflected the trademark filings. Another remarkable trademark story from 2014 was the Supreme Court, for the first time in several years, hearing a trademark case (B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc.). The case involves the differences in proceedings before the USPTO’s trademark appeal board and the Federal courts, and the Court will likely rule on it in the spring of 2015. Here is a summary of the year’s major trademark related developments:

Washington, DC Professional Football Team Trademark. In June, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted a request filed by several Native Americans to cancel those trademarks that feature the term “Redskins.” However, the decision is now on appeal and the ongoing dispute, which has lasted for over a decade, continues. Following the decision, many other applicants filed trademark applications for potential team names, such as WASHINGTON AMERICANS, WASHINGTON NATIVES, WASHINGTON FEDSKINS, WASHINGTON WARRIORS.

Popular Terms: Selfie, Drone, Weed, Vape, and more. Once again, the most popular words and phenomena in pop culture made their way into many trademark filings. The 2014 word of the year, according to Oxford English Dictionary, is “Vape.”  And business owners certainly agree as more than 300 applications were filed at the USPTO featuring the word VAPE. Other popular trademark terms in 2014 included SELFIE (140+ applications), DRONE (100+ applications), and WEED (150+ applications). More than 100 filings in 2014 contain the “#” hashtag symbol. Online and environmental branding trends from the last few years contained in 2014 as SOCIAL remained popular (400+ applications), along with CLOUD (700+ applications), while more than 1,000 applications were filed featuring GREEN.

Logo Trends. As even more business and advertising moves online and via mobile devices, logos are trending to simpler smaller designs, which make them faster to load and easier to see on mobile screens. Terrific logo redesigns from popular online businesses include those from FOURSQUARE , PayPal, and AirBnB.

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Ebola. The spread of ebola was certainly a big story in 2014. At the USPTO, there were several applications filed for ebola related treatments and products including ZMAPP (Pharmaceutical preparations for treatment of Ebola virus infections), EBOLAHOL (antiviral disinfectant products for Ebola), EBOLAWAY (Antibacterial and antiviral sprays and wipes for eliminating bacteria and virii), and EBOLA OUTBREAK MAP.

Controversial Trademark Filings. The ALS Association rode a wave of viral social media activity last summer to raise more than $100 million dollars. Most of the activity was the result of the “ice bucket challenge.” The Association made quite a stir later in the summer when it applied to register four trademarks featuring the phrase, including ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE and #ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE. However, following a rapid backlash questioning the charitable intent and legality of claiming sole ownership and control of the phrase, the Association withdrew the applications.  Other questionable trademark filings included names related to tragedies, such as the MH17 and MH370 airplanes.  Last year’s trends noted the numerous BOSTON STRONG trademark application filings; as of today all but one of them has been abandoned.

Trademark scams continue. Despite one law firm’s successful quest to shutdown an operation preying on trademark holders, such scams from numerous companies offering negligible or questionable services remain prolific. Join a petition to “Request USPTO Investigation and Action Regarding Trademark Scams” here.

What to look for in 2015. Expect even more trademark disputes to go viral via social media, building upon the success of EAT MORE KALE fending off a claim from Chik-fil-A and Eat Mor Chikin. Also expect the number of nontraditional trademark filings to continue to grow as more brands protect colors, sounds, shapes, and other indicators of source featuring more than words or logos.

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© 2014 Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

About Erik M. Pelton: Erik Pelton® has been making trademarks bloom since 1999® as the founder of Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC®, a boutique trademark law firm in Falls Church, Virginia. The firm has registered more than 2,000 U.S. trademarks for clients and has represented dozens of parties in trademark disputes. In 2014, Erik presented on trademark and branding issues to a variety of audiences, including the American Bar Association and a junior high school class.

Prior issues of Top Trademark TrendsSM

Fifteen years ago today, I filed my first trademark application

Posted by ipelton on: December 30th, 2014

Today marks 15 years since I started my firm and began representing small businesses in filing trademark applications with the USPTO, and providing trademark counsel.  From the start — fifteen years ago! – every single application I have filed (several thousand) has been for a flat, all-inclusive fee.

Fifteen years ago, the applications were submitted on paper. And I would hand-deliver them to the USPTO.  See the “Received” stamp below on the cover page from my first application filing from the USPTO records.

A lot has changed in those 15 years, but a lot has also stayed the same.

And today, trademarks are more valuable than ever and provide a great investment for their cost.

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Erik M Pelton & Associates celebrates 15 years of trademarks

Posted by ipelton on: December 19th, 2014

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of hosting the local Falls Church Chamber of Commerce happy hour gathering. I hosted the event as part of the celebration of 15 years of trademark practice! That’s right, in December of 1999 I launched my law practice and filed my first trademark applications.

I remember those first weeks vividly, waiting for small businesses to find my “homemade” website. From the start, I aimed to offer reasonable flat fees and exceptional service. While a lot has changed over those 15 years (for example, those first applications were hand delivered to the USPTO, now documents are filed around the world with a click), our core principles at Erik M. Pelton & Associates remain the same. Thanks to the trust we have earned from our clients, we have become leaders in the trademark field and successfully registered more than two thousand trademarks for clients from around the world in all types of industries.

It continues to be a joy and privilege to work with so many successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

Erik Pelton – Making trademarks bloom since 1999®

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I frequently advocate on this blog that we should practice what we preach.  Many trademark law firms don’t have good slogans or logos. Many trademark law firms have not registered their trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Not so here at Erik M. Pelton & Associates!  Just added to our roster of registered trademarks: THE NONTRADITIONAL TRADEMARK LAWYERS®.

Get it? It is a double entendre, which makes for a fun, memorable and good trademark.

  • Nontraditional trademarks are source indicating things that are not words or designs, such as sounds, colors, shapes, mascots, uniforms, packaging, and more.
  • Nontraditional lawyers are different from traditional law firms. They use technology to provide more efficient services – the internet for research, email for communication, networks for document storage, and online systems for filing. They charge flat fees. They are smaller and nimble. They publish blogs, create apps, and use social media. They build and use proprietary software for managing dockets and deadlines. Their attorneys answer the phones and return messages promptly.

At Erik M. Pelton & Associates, we are nontraditional. And we have a great deal of experience protecting ‘nontraditional’ trademarks!

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Just recently, the number of registrations with my name attached to them in the public records of the USPTO surpassed 2,000.  It is not possible (to my knowledge) to know precisely how many trademarks I have registered — the registrant could change USPTO records sometimes  after the registration issued in some circumstances, and I could become counsel of record at the USPTO on some files after the registration has been granted.

Regardless, this is the first time the USPTO records have reflected more than 2,000 registered records associated with the name Erik Pelton®.

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